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U.S. Trade Representative Announces 2011 Plans for Key Trade Initiatives Before House Ways and Means Committee

Priorities this year include U.S. Korea agreement, resolving issues related to Panama and Colombia pacts, and Russia WTO accession

Washington, D.C. – In testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the Obama Administration’s plans to move forward this year on a number of key trade initiatives in order to boost American exports and support jobs here at home. Excerpts from Ambassador Kirk’s testimony:

“After extensive consultations with the business community, Labor and Congress, in December we concluded a U.S.-Korea trade agreement that is better for America’s auto industry and better for America’s auto workers. It is winning widespread support. To bring home its promise – billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs in America – the President intends to submit the U.S.-Korea trade agreement to Congress in the next few weeks and looks forward to working with you to secure its approval this spring.”

“With the same engagement and cooperation, we will work to address outstanding concerns relating to the Panama and Colombia trade agreements. If we are successful, we will move those forward as well. I can tell you today that the President has directed me to immediately intensify engagement with Colombia and Panama with the objective of resolving the outstanding issues as soon as possible this year and bringing those agreements to Congress for consideration immediately thereafter.

“But let me clear: There remain serious issues to be resolved before the Colombia and Panama agreements can be submitted for Congressional consideration. Some of these issues go to core U.S. values and interests, such as the protection of labor rights. Any timetable will be contingent on the successful resolution of these issues. For example, with regard to Colombia, it will be imperative to resolve issues regarding laws and practices impacting the protection of internationally-recognized labor rights, as well as issues concerning violence against labor leaders and the prosecution of the perpetrators. Colombia and Panama have begun to take important steps, but more remains to be done. For this timetable to work, it will be critical for them to come to the table, prepared to take additional meaningful actions. We will be consulting closely with you and major stakeholders -- including labor and human rights groups -- throughout this process. “

“…our efforts to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization will include working with [Congress] this year to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations, so that U.S. firms and workers fully benefit from Russia’s accession to the WTO.”

The full text of Ambassador Kirk’s testimony is available here. You can watch the full hearing here.